Heresy: Fundamentals of Combat Riflecraft, Part Three (Or, “Two Will Do….Except When It Won’t!)
There is a false truth present in the “tactical” shooting community that has been around for decades. This lie goes back to the old mythology of “one-shot stops” and the mantra of “I’ll only carry a pistol if it starts with point-four.” That lie is the misguided faith in a two-shot default response to a bad guy problem that requires a ballistic solution. This used to be taught as the “double tap.” Based on conversations I’ve had with supposedly “trained” tactical shooters, including numerous “instructors,” the stupidity that is the double tap is still being promulgated.
To ensure a shared point of reference, a “double tap,” by definition, is simply two shots fired as quickly as possibly. It is simply “sight picture–shot-shot.” The greatest problem with the double tap is that you don’t know where the fuck your second shot is going, since it wasn’t aimed. You must see your sights for every single shot. YOU MUST ACCOUNT FOR THE IMPACT OF EVERY SINGLE ROUND THAT EXITS YOUR WEAPON. It doesn’t matter if you’re a cop on the street, an armed citizen defending your life or home, a soldier in Afghanistan fighting a counterinsurgency, or an insurgent trying to kill members of a totalitarian regime’s security forces, while gaining and maintaining the support of the civilian populace. YOU MUST ACCOUNT FOR THE IMPACT OF EVERY SINGLE ROUND THAT EXITS YOUR WEAPON.
In two decades of running a gun professionally, I’ve yet to see ANYONE who could shoot double taps accurately, with any degree of consistency at all. Sure, at three meters, with a pistol, shooting a stationary IPSC silhouette, on a flat, level, square range, double taps seem to work, and pretty well at that. However, as soon as you begin adding no-shoots amongst the hostiles, in tight confines, or allow the hostiles to move, or add any other kind of stress to the equation, at realistic pistol and rifle engagement ranges (all of which you know…happens in real life and shit…), the double tap shit falls completely fucking to pieces…in a hurry.
Being fast is great, and it is inarguably important when you’re trying to kill the other guy before he kills you. Fast misses though, will get you (or more importantly, your buddies) killed just as quick and just as dead as slow misses. Hits on target are what ultimately count, and the only way to ensure hits on target, is to AIM YOUR FUCKING WEAPON, EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU SQUEEZE THE GOD-DAMNED TRIGGER!
Controlled Pairs are the answer….maybe…sometimes…
Controlled pairs, sometimes referred to as “hammers,” are the trained gunman’s response to the inherent inaccuracy of double taps. Controlled pairs require three distinct sight pictures to be executed properly: “sight picture-shot-sight picture-shot-sight picture.” Assuming you can actually shoot worth a fuck, this means that, all other things being equal, all of your shots will be hits, because you aimed every one (obviously, that’s not going to work out in real life, because shit happens, Mr. Murphy gets to vote, and the bad guy may be moving, or the shot is just too difficult for you to make…As long as you can account for the shot though, you’ve got a chance of surviving the court of popular opinion when dealing with the local civilian populace after your errant round smokes some yahoo in the head that didn’t have enough fucking brains to exit stage right when the guns starting making noise).
Controlled pairs will be slower than double taps, at least initially, because you have to build the ability to aim/shoot/aim/shoot/aim as quickly as humanly possible. With good, effective training and subsequent practice though, it is more than possible to get two aimed rounds downrange at CQM ranges (call it out to 50 meters), in less than 1/2 second (at 100 meters, two shots to the “A-zone” or “sniper’s triangle,” in one second, is readily achievable).
The Rest of the Time and That Bitch, Little Miss Reality
The controlled pair is a useful tool in teaching fundamental combat marksmanship and weapons craft. In fact, I use it all the time in teaching. It’s an excellent tool for developing the mechanics of follow-through. The problem is that, far too often, in both training and execution, the controlled pair becomes a default response and a de facto double tap.
As soon as someone who’s trained exclusively in controlled pairs has to fire a third or fourth or fifth round in the same string, the miss the last shots, and shit just generally falls apart, because they’ve trained and conditioned themselves to blow the follow-through on the second shot. At best, they end up firing a string of controlled pairs, with a noticeable pause between, allowing the enemy time to adjust his position relative to their sight picture, slowing down the next controlled pair, or causing it to miss entirely.
Your shot string doesn’t end with the last shot. It ends after you’ve assessed the effects of your work. You’re done shooting when you’ve looked through your sights and seen that the threat no longer exists as a threat. The controlled pair becomes a default response and a de facto double tap, because shooters conditioned to controlled pairs invariably blow the follow through on the second shot, in their hurry to get to the next target.
The problem with default responses, whether they are controlled pairs, hammers, or double taps, is that they don’t take reality into account. You might have missed, regardless of how well you shoot IPSC silhouettes on the square range. Or, your hits may not have been as precise as you thought they were. Or, maybe the dude’s just not a pussy, and it’s going to take more than two hits to the vitals to put him down (before any of you fucktards start blathering ridiculously about how it only takes one hit from a real man’s gun, like a .308, you need to go read the autobiographies of both Colonel Charles Beckwith and General Boykin. Both men took hits from 12.7mm anti-aircraft guns, to the torso, and not only survived, but returned to duty and spent years more in the SOF world. Newsflash: 12.7mm is the old Warsaw Pact answer to .50BMG. It makes a much larger hole, and delivers a fuck-ton more energy to the target than your pipsqueak 30-caliber does…). That’s where the currently fashionable-and correct-adage comes from, to “shoot him to the ground.”
“Yeah, but I’ll just pull a Mozambique Drill on his ass, and put the third one in his brain bucket!” Of course you will, because you are a rare, delicate, and special little flower, and gosh darn it, people like you!
Outside of the bad guy wearing rifle plate body armor (in which case, you ought to be shooting the motherfucker in the hips any way…), what if your two to the chest were misses? What if they turned out to be just peripheral hits? Now, out of the blue, after missing the largest fucking part of the dude, you’re going to magically pull precision accuracy out of your ass, and hit a smaller, more difficult target? Of course you are…Are you fucking high? Even if they’re wearing armor and you smoked him in the hips, what if you missed? What if you did hit him, but he hasn’t bled out enough yet?
What if the bad guy is not a fucking silhouette or photo-realistic target printed on a sheet of fucking paper? What is the bad guy is a real person and is smart enough to use cover? What if all you can see of him is his shoulder, or part of his leg?
The only sensible response, and the one that any thinking person with a modicum of common sense and realistic training or experience would provide is, to forget using a two-shot default response. In fact, forget a default response at all. We live in a world of shades of gray (maybe not fifty shades, but there’s lots of grays in the world….see what I did there? Damn, I’m a funny fucker!). Hell, even black and white are shades of gray!
Shoot the motherfucker with a non-default response. Whether it’s one shot, or two, or three, or five, or ten…you need to be able to fire accurate, fast, repetitive shots, and assess the effects of your shots, through your sights, without slowing down.
Change it up from time to time in training. On one target, shoot three; on another shoot four. Then two, then one, then five; you get the idea. The key is not to go slow, nor to go fast. The key is to go as fast as you’re able, while still being accurate enough to get the job done. Shoot only as fast as you’re able…but be able to shoot as fast as you need to. Any hillbilly with a squirrel rifle can take his time and get accurate hits. You need to be able to shoot accurately, fast.
“But John! What if there are more than one bad guy? Do you shoot each guy once or twice, and then come back, or do you shoot the first one to the ground, and then move on?” It’s a question I get asked a lot, and it’s a valid one. The simple, and brutally honest answer is…it depends on the situation.
The practical answer, in my experience, is that there are a couple of factors to consider…
First of all, remember that we’re not talking exclusively, or even primarily, about a home or personal defense situation, where you’re the only good guy with a gun. If you’ve got to kill every bad guy, all by your lonesome, you seriously need to reconsider your personnel selection and your training programs for your group, because they are FUCKED UP!
Second, outside of CQM distances (and even within), your first or second or third shot might not kill the dude, or even hit him. It might, however, force him to duck deep enough behind cover that he’s no longer a threat to you, or you’re just no longer able to effectively engage him any more for the time being.
Third, common sense and tactical logic says that you should address the most dangerous lethal threat first, right? Then shoot him until he’s no longer a threat, or at least not the most lethal threat, and then move on. Whether it takes one round, or ten rounds, to either kill him, put him down hard enough to be out of the fight, or make him seek cover (i.e. “Make him more concerned with not getting shot than he is with shooting you”), shoot the fucker until he’s no longer a threat.